Société astronomique de France

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Société astronomique de France
Founded 28 January 1887
Founder Camille Flammarion
Type Non-profit association
Purpose To promote the development and practice of astronomy
Headquarters 3, rue Beethoven, Paris 75016, France
Patrick Baradeau

The Société Astronomique de France (SAF), the French astronomical society, is a non-profit association in the public interest organized under French law (la loi du 1er juillet 1901). Founded by astronomer Camille Flammarion in 1887, its purpose is to promote the development and practice of astronomy.


Open to all, SAF includes both professional and amateur astronomers as members, from France and abroad. Its objective was defined at the time of its establishment as:

Objective of the Society

A Society is founded with the aim to bring together people involved practically or theoretically in Astronomy, or who are interested in the development of this Science and the extension of its influence for the illumination of minds. Its efforts shall support the increase and extension of this Science, as well as to facilitating ways and means for those who wish to undertake astronomical studies.

All friends of the Science and Progress are invited for its composition and development.

SAF Statutes, First Article


SAF was established by Camille Flammarion and a group of 11 persons on 28 January 1887 in Flammarion's apartment at 16 rue Cassini, 75014 Paris, close to the Paris Observatory.[1] On 4 April 1887, the headquarters was established at the Hôtel des Sociétés Savantes, 28 rue Serpente, Paris 75006. On 17 October 1966, the headquarters moved to the Maison de la Chimie at 28 rue Saint-Dominique, Paris 75007.[2][3] The headquarters are presently located at 3, rue Beethoven, Paris 75016.


To date, the Society has had 49 presidents comprising many illustrious persons in astronomy and related fields. By profession, half of the presidents were astronomers (28), followed by physicists (11), and other professions (10) that includes engineers, a medical doctor, two generals, a prince, a writer, and an historian.

Name Profession Years served
Camille Flammarion SAF Founder, astronomer, author 1887-1889[4]
Hervé Faye Astronomer 1889-1891[4]
Anatole Bouquet de la Grye Hydrographic engineer, geographer, astronomer 1892-1893[4]
Félix Tisserand Astronomer 1893-1895[4]
Jules Janssen Astronomer 1895-1897[4]
Alfred Cornu Physicist 1897-1899[4]
Octave Callandreau Physicist 1899-1901[4]
Henri Poincaré Mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, philosopher of science 1901-1903[4]
Gabriel Lippmann Physicist, inventor 1903-1904[4]
Chrétien Édouard Caspari Astronomer, hydrographic engineer 1905-1907[4]
Henri-Alexandre Deslandres Astronomer 1907-1909[4]
Benjamin Baillaud Astronomer 1909-1911[4]
Pierre Puiseux Astronomer 1911-1913[4]
Aymar de la Baume Pluvinel Astronomer 1913-1919[5]
Paul Émile Appell Mathematician 1919-1921[5]
Roland Bonaparte French prince, President of the Société de Géographie 1921-1923[5]
Charles Lallemand Geophysicist 1923-1925[5]
Gustave-Auguste Ferrié Radio pioneer, Army general 1925-1927[5]
Eugène Fichot Hydrographer 1927-1929[5]
Georges Perrier Army general, President of the Société de Géographie 1929-1931[5]
Charles Fabry Physicist 1931-1933[5]
Ernest Esclangon Astronomer, mathematician 1933-1935[5]
Jules Baillaud Astronomer 1935-1937[5]
Charles Maurain Geophysicist 1937-1939[6]
Fernand Baldet Astronomer 1939-1945
Bernard Lyot Astronomer 1945-1947
André-Louis Danjon Astronomer 1947-1949
Lucien d'Azambuja Astronomer 1949-1951
Jean Cabannes Physicist 1951-1953
Pierre Chevenard Mining engineer 1953-1955
André Couder Astronomer, optical engineer 1955-1957
Albert Perard Physicist, meteorologist 1957-1958
Jean Coulomb Geophysicist, mathematician 1958-1960
André Lallemand Astronomer 1960-1962
André-Louis Danjon Astronomer 1962-1964
Pierre Tardi Astronomer 1964-1966
Jean Rösch Astronomer 1966-1970
Jean Kovalevsky Astronomer 1970-1973
Jean-Claude Pecker Astronomer 1973-1976
Bruno Morando Astronomer 1976-1979
Audouin Dollfus Astronomer 1979-1981
Jacques Boulon Astronomer 1981-1984
Paul Simon Astronomer 1984-1987
Philippe de la Cotardière Writer, science journalist 1987-1993
Jean-Claude Ribes Radioastronomer 1993-1997
Roger Ferlet Astrophysicist 1997-2001
Patrick Guibert Engineer 2001-2005
Philippe Morel Medical doctor 2005-2014
Patrick Baradeau Historian, publisher 2014–Present
Gallery of Selected SAF Presidents
No. 1 — Camille Flammarion 
No. 2 — Hervé Faye 
No. 4 — Félix Tisserand 
No. 5 — Jules Janssen 
No. 6 — Alfred Cornu 
No. 7 — Octave Callandreau 
No. 8 — Henri Poincaré 
No. 9 — Gabriel Lippmann 
No. 12 — Benjamin Baillaud 
No. 13 — Pierre Puiseux 
No. 15 — Paul Émile Appell 
No. 16 — Roland Bonaparte 
No. 17 — Charles Lallemand 
No. 19 — Eugène Fichot 
No. 20 — Georges Perrier 
No. 21 — Charles Fabry 
No. 22 — Ernest Esclangon 

Activities and services[edit]

The Society publishes:

  • The monthly magazine l'Astronomie.
  • The periodical Observations et Travaux dedicated to the techniques applied by its members and the results they obtained.

SAF organizes:

  • Monthly conferences
  • Lectures
  • Courses of initiation in astronomy
  • Regular meetings of its specialized commissions.
Observatoire sorbonne.jpg Juvisy-sur-Orge - Observatoire.jpg
Observatoire de la Sorbonne Observatoire Camille Flammarion

The monthly conferences are usually convened in the lecture hall of Agro ParisTech, and the other events are held at SAF headquarters in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.

On a regular basis, SAF offers the opportunity for the public to explore the night sky from two observatories:

The Society has a workshop on optics that also meets at the Observatoire de la Sorbonne.

SAF organizes the yearly astronomical meetings Rencontres Astro Ciel, which allows hundreds of astronomy enthusiasts to get together for two or three weeks under the starry sky of Provence.

The Society also has an extensive library that includes both historical and modern works, and is available for research and consultation.


SAF's specialized commissions are:

L'Astronomie magazine[edit]

First issue of L'Astronomie magazine (1882)

Today's journal l'Astronomie descends from a series of journals associated with SAF. The first one, published by Camille Flammarion, preceded the establishment of SAF by 3 years.


The society has offered the following awards over the years to its members and to notable personalities in the field of astronomy in France and abroad. Not all awards are given every year, and some have been discontinued.

Award Purpose Frequency Years given
Prix Jules Janssen Recognition of astronomical work in general, or services rendered to Astronomy, by a professional — Prize established by Jules Janssen Annual 1896–present[7]
Prix des Dames Recognition of services rendered to the Society of any kind — Prize established at the initiative of Sylvie Camille Flammarion and a group of women members of SAF Annual 1896–present[7]
Prix Maurice Ballot Recognition of authors of works of the Society's observatory — Biannual prize established by a donation of Maurice Ballot, SAF Librarian[8] When merited 1921-[7]
Prix Georges Bidault de l'Isle Encouragement of young people who show a special talent for astronomy or meteorology. Individuals are chosen from participants at courses and conferences, collaboration at the Observatory, or through communications in the bulletin during the preceding year — Prior to 1956, this award was known as the Prix de l'Observatoire de la Guette[9] Annual 1925-[7]
Prix Henry Rey Recognition of an important work in astronomy. A silver medal is awarded annually. — Established by funds bequeathed by Henry Rey of Marseille[8] Annual 1926–present[7]
Prix Gabrielle et Camille Flammarion Recognition of an important discovery and marked progress in astronomy or in a sister science, to aid an independent researcher, or to assist a young researcher to begin work in astronomy. Odd-numbered years, alternating with the Prix Dorothea Klumpke-Isaac Roberts 1930–present[10]
Prix Dorothea Klumpke - Isaac Roberts Encouragement of the study of the wide and diffuse nebulae of William Herschel, the obscure objects of Barnard, or the cosmic clouds of R.P. Hagen.— Biannual prize established by a donation of Dorothea Klumpke Roberts in honor of her late husband Isaac Roberts[8] Biennial 1931-[7]
Prix Marcel Moye Recognition of a young member of the Society for his or her observations — Individuals must be 25 years of age or less Annual 1946 -[7]
Prix Marius Jacquemetton Recognition of a work or research by a member of the Society, a student, or a young astronomer. Annual 1947-present[7]
Prix Viennet - Damien Recognition of a beautiful piece of optics or for some work in this branch of astronomy. Alternate years with the Prix Dorothea Klumpke-Isaac Roberts. 1949-[7]
Prix Julien Saget Recognition of an amateur for his or her remarkable astronomical photography. Annual 1969- present[7]
Prix Edmond Girard Encouragement for a beginning vocation in astronomy or scientific exploration of the sky above the Observatoire de Juvisy. Annual 1974-[7]
Prix Camus - Waitz Named in honor of Jacques Camus and Michel Waitz - present
Prix Marguerite Clerc The condition of attribution of this prize is left to the discretion of the SAF Council.[11]
Prix d'Astronautique Recognition of a study of interplanetary travel/astronautics — Prize established by Robert Esnault-Pelterie and André-Louis Hirsch. Prior to 1936, it was known as the Prix Rep-Hirsch When merited 1928-1939[7][12]
Médaille des Anciens Présidents
Médaille Commémorative Annual 1901-[7]
Médaille du Soixantenaire Recognition of members who achieve 60 continuous years of membership When merited - present
Plaquette du Centenaire de Camille Flammarion Recognition of eminent service to the Society Annual 1956-[13]

Asteroid (4162) SAF[edit]

French astronomer André Patry of the Observatoire de Nice named Asteroid (4162) SAF in the society's honor after he discovered the body on 24 November 1940.[14]


External links[edit]

Web sites of SAF commissions:

See also[edit]

List of astronomical societies